Following the VaTech tragedy, many Brits are congratulating themselves on their low murder rate compared with the US. They shouldn’t – while the UK rate is almost half that of the US, the UK is catching up fast.
The Brits treat murder and manslaughter as different crimes, whereas in the US, they are both murder. Adopting the US measure, in 2002 the UK murder rate was 2.03 per 100,000 people, and the US 5.6 per 100,000.
However the US rate is declining – it was 7.4 in 1996. The UK rate is an amalgam of those of England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. In 1996 it was about 1.25 per 100,000 (computed by population-weighting the rates for the 4 regions).
So between 1996 and 2002, the Brit rate rose by over 60%.
Thus even if the US rate ceases to decline, if current trends continue, the Brit rate will exceed it by 2014.
English readers may gain some comfort from their much lower rates than Scotland and Northern Ireland.